I have always wondered how others live a cross-cultural life. Whether it's the culture you are born into or trying to understand a different one, this diverse topic continues to fascinate me. Imagine a girl who struggles to juggle her identity since she is half-Indian and half-Jewish. Sonia Nadhamuni is far from normal as she tries to be less than herself. But, what does that mean? Does it mean lying about her culture, fitting in with her new friends, or just giving vague answers when asked about her heritage? Sonia’s life is an absolute mess, but author Veera Hiranandani smooths out a path leading the reader into Sonia’s not so “half” life.
“Maybe it would be easier just to be Indian and not have to explain the Jewish part." This quote resonates with Sonia’s thoughts about herself. For most of the book, she has the mindset that she is either just Indian or just Jewish, not both. Her heritage was never a problem at her expensive private school, where the kids just knew each other and never asked questions. However, Sonia's close to ‘perfect’ life came to a sudden end when her father lost his job. As a result, her mother had to work more hours, her dad had severe episodes, and worst of all, Sonia and her sister had to attend public school.
I felt terrible for Sonia at first, especially when she had to transfer schools. Her life gets turned upside down– she has to adjust to the new surroundings and make new friends. A couple more chapters in, I noticed that Sonia was quite spoiled, and I started to sympathize with those around her. Once she starts at her new school, Sonia quickly finds herself wavering between a group of popular girls and kids who would consider themselves introverts. Kate, a popular white girl, has a controlling friendship with Sonia, while Alisha, a nerdy Black girl, has a heart of gold. After making the cheerleading team as an alternate, Sonia learns that to fit in she first needs to be true to herself.
The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a fast-paced young adult novel encompassing the true nature of middle school, adorned with the hard truth of reality. Throughout the book, Hiranandani offers the question of one’s heritage and identity. This made me ponder my heritage, and I connected with Sonia in many ways. Still, while she tried explaining that she is American Indian, Indian from India, I started to smile, knowing that even I had to explain my heritage to my friends. All in all, The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a spellbinding book, and I couldn’t enjoy it more.
The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani. Yearling Books, 2013. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!